Beyond Chicken Tenders: Family Dining in Park City and Salt Lake

By Paula Colman Dec 15, 2021
Utah restaurants, in general, are family-friendly. So, whether you're looking for fine dining or cheap eats, you can find delicious food that all will enjoy.
Beyond Chicken Tenders: Family Dining in Park City and Salt Lake

When traveling, "What's for dinner?" is the inevitable question that prompts every parent to grit her teeth and squint her eyes before replying, "Something good," as she pulls out her phone to make a reservation or find great takeout. In an unfamiliar place, choosing where to eat with the family can be as challenging as a mogul field on 50-year-old knees. Not only does the food have to be edible, but the atmosphere should also be relaxing for parents and children, especially after a long ski day. 

As the state with the highest number of children per family in the U.S., Utah is accustomed to accommodating kids from the ski slopes to sushi bars. Family dining here includes numerous fine dining, fast-casual and great takeout options. Many lists are searchable online, but some local friends and I recently discussed some of their personal favorites in Salt Lake and Park City.

“Is a vegetarian permitted to eat animal crackers?” 

―George Carlin

Overall, most parents agree that a family-friendly restaurant is one with options. Although many restaurants provide kids' menus, others are happy to accommodate guests of any age or dietary preference. Vegetarian, vegan, moody teen...yes, yes, and possibly, you'll likely find options to satisfy most palates at most Utah restaurants. If it's not listed, just ask. 

However, for parents looking for a little liquid sustenance, remember that in Utah, there are 'restaurants' (under 21 welcome and may serve beer and wine or beer, wine and spirits) and 'bars' (under 21 not allowed to enter and serves beer, wine and spirits). Notably, High West Saloon in Old Town Park City is now a bar, but its Distillery where you can enjoy a terrific lunch or brunch in Wanship is a restaurant. To make it easy, every establishment has an 8x11-inch placard near the entrance designating which it is or, again, just ask.

Fresh food fast at Vessel Kitchen

Let's get back to dining options. If you've skied all day (or felt like you've done so), just want to feed the kids and head to bed before another day playing in the powder, then consider a restaurant that will serve a delicious, casual meal and get you and the tuckered-out tots in-and-out quickly. Vessel Kitchen is a locals' favorite with both Salt Lake (Midvale and Sugarhouse) and Park City (Kimball Junction) locations. This fast-casual restaurant offers a fresh take on comfort foods with a rotating seasonal menu. It is also available for takeout and catering if you have a large family or group. If you want a diner with local color, try the low-key but legendary Ruth's Diner in Emigration Canyon (parents and teens can read the history of chain-smoking Ruth on the back of the menu). The all-day menu is longer and more expansive than most, but don't forget the biscuits...or the Bloody Marys, which should come with a warning label for heat that will keep your toes toasty in your ski boots into the next day. 

 Photo Credit @foreverwithNicole

If you want a neighborhood gem-style restaurant, one where you can take the kids but the parents actually go there for the food, then listen to the local "moms who make the reservations" and head to Sammy's Bistro (which also offers takeout or delivery) or Twisted Fern (kids will like the crispy chickpeas and mocktails) or Five5eeds (breakfast and lunch until 3 pm) in Park City. In metropolitan Salt Lake City, the choices are, honestly, endless, but Provisions, in Millcreek (close to the Cottonwood resorts), consistently surprises out-of-towners for their quality, atmosphere and price. Chile Tepin located downtown is popular with local families serving traditional Mexican favorites and its mouth-watering steak, chicken and shrimp molcajete. This dish is large enough to serve two adults and is, like everything but the margaritas, available for takeout.


If you and the kids still have some gas in the tank after skiing and want to have a bit of fun with your food, then consider Billy Blanco's in Jeremy Ranch. A Bill White restaurant (which are all family-friendly, including comfort food Windy Ridge Cafe, Italian Ghidotti's, southwestern Chimayo and others) which calls itself "Motor City Mexican," Billy Blanco's entices with a south-of-the-border menu on the table and entertains with cars and motorcycles hanging from the ceiling. Younger and older car fanatics will amuse themselves throughout the meal watching the working garage around them. 

If your family likes to eat and then play, be sure to make a reservation at Burgers & Bourbon at the Montage Deer Valley. Here, you can enjoy an incredible milkshake, luxe burger and fry trio overlooking the Empire Lift. Then, go downstairs to Daley's and challenge the littles (and definitely the teenagers) to a round of bowling and other games. If you prefer to do a little shopping or, no judgment, bribe the kids with a bit of shopping, Hearth and Hill in Redstone offers a great menu, large booths and a vast selection of shops to stroll to afterward, including nearby Backcountry or Outlets Park City.

"The age of your children is a key factor in how quickly you are served in a restaurant. We once had a waiter in Canada who said, 'Could I get you your check?' and we answered, 'How about the menu first?'" 

―Erma Bombeck

People often equate "family-friendly" with "cheap and fast," but some of our kids' favorite places are admittedly not cheap. Sushi is a great example. Astonishingly, raw fish seems to top many otherwise picky eater lists. We once took our then-tween son through a fast-food drive-thru before going to a sushi restaurant just to fill him up a bit and avoid shelling out a fortune for sashimi. Now, we just push a bowl of rice and miso soup his way first. Despite being landlocked, sushi restaurants abound throughout Utah and remain some of the locals' family favorites, including Takashi (downtown and fancier), Kyoto (laidback in Sugarhouse) and Mint (Best of State with a location close to Cottonwood resorts) in Salt Lake City and Yuki Yama Sushi (Main Street), Shabu (Main Street fusion with separate gluten-free menu) or Sushi Blue (Pan-Asian "something for everyone" at Redstone) in Park City. 

Fireside with the family

If you're looking for something more...cooked, families also enjoy Fireside Dining at Deer Valley Resort. This prix-fixed four-course Swiss-inspired meal featuring its famous raclette served from one of five stone fireplaces is neither cheap nor fast, but families love it returning year after year. Similarly, nestled in scenic Millcreek Canyon in Salt Lake City is Log Haven, the place many kids counter-intuitively request when they want mom and dad to take them to a "fancy" or holiday meal. (Business casual or sweater and clean boots are welcome.) With low ceilings and tables scattered throughout the actual cabin's nooks and crannies, families can feel like they're dining at home, a rustic-chic home in the woods. However, if you're dreaming of its grilled quail and chocolate ganache tart but prefer to wear pajamas in your condo, it offers takeout and delivery, as well.

“The highlight of my childhood was making my brother laugh so hard that food came out of his nose.” 

―Garrison Keillor 

Eating out with kids should be relaxing and enjoyable. Well, it should be pleasant. Be assured that Utah is very family-friendly when it comes to dining and friendly when it comes to everything else. So, accept a final bit of advice from Utah locals who love food and family: Have a wonderful time on the mountain and wherever you dine, enjoy regaling the tales over a great meal...together.

(Special thanks to Bettina, Jane, Kristen, Margit, Nicole, Renee and Valerie for contributing.)